The concept of code coverage affects any existing software application, from PC programs, mobile apps, the latest application for your SmartTV or router firmware. While it’s not a concept that depends on whether the software is connected to the Internet, it does affect us all. Let’s explain what it is and how to deal with it.
By now IP devices are already more than just a fancy hype. The Internet of Things (IoT) will connect about 5 billion terminals and devices this year, with a rising tendency – in 2020 about 25 billion intelligent objects are expected to be connected to the Internet, about three times more than the world’s current population.
The performance, power, energy consumption and useful life of routers are all measurable factors in product testing. The data, however, depend on the conditions under which manufacturers carry out the tests. Transparency is vital!
After 10 years and more than 400,000 km, it is finally time to say goodbye to my little Citroen Xsara. Who brought up planned obsolescence? It is with a degree of nostalgia that I say goodbye because, to be honest, the car has given me more joy than trouble. One aspect I personally value when looking for a replacement is reduced consumption and with 40,000 km per year it certainly needs to be kept in mind. The first step, of course, is to get hold of official manufacturing data. In so doing, the technological advances in data publishing of recent years are appreciated: quickly, we find consumption of less than 5 liters per 100 km in mid-size cars with large engine power and even 4 liters per 100 km or less, if we are willing to make do with less powerful engines that just make 100 horsepower. And that’s without even considering electric or hybrid vehicles; technology is most welcome! The second step is the Internet. Specialized websites with comparisons, trends, experiences, testing, user forums… Sometimes too much information can lead to misinformation. But there is a certain unanimity when it comes to consumption: official manufacturing data are usually lower (sometimes significantly) than what users report. Well, we haven’t discovered penicillin here, I think it’s something in the public domain. So… are we being deceived by manufacturers? Here I believe that my impression as a user is also shared by most: manufacturers are probably not deceiving us, they are only varying “the conditions”.
The same can be extrapolated to numerous cases where products are rated by quantitative data (a household appliance’s consumption, a mobile phone’s battery life, a device’s expected life span…). This is self-evident but the conditions under which the data are obtained are almost as important as the data itself, though this is not always given the attention it deserves.
The function of product testing
In telecommunications, two factors determine the validity of the access router, especially with regard to remote access to a corporate network. One of these factors is qualitative, the available interfaces and functionality, while the other is quantitative, the speed at which the device is capable of exploiting them. The first factor has often been a determining factor of the second; read, for example, the transition from networks based on serial lines (X25, FR, PP…) to ISDN and subsequently ADSL, VDSL, and finally to Ethernet and fiber connections (Giga).
In virtually all cases the conversion of the access method determined the speed thereof and thus the power required of the device. However, only a small fraction (usually 100 Mbps, or 10%) of the capacity of typical connections in central offices (Ethernet and fiber) is currently being exploited, leaving a long way to go. Thus the second factor (the power of the device, be it speed, performance, capacity, throughput…) takes on a key role in determining the suitability of the product for expecting a reasonable period of useful life. At the same time it is clear that an appropriate level of power ensures adequate performance during this lifetime, both of which impact both the business development and the income statement.
Unfortunately, Internet resources collecting user information on professional routers are much more limited than those for vehicles, mobile phones, and household appliances. Often, the only option is to rely on the data published by manufacturers. And this is what I was leading up to because, as product manager, I am very familiar with the problem…
How do you measure a router’s performance?
The conditions under which an access router’s maximum performance is determined are absolutely crucial and have a far greater impact on the outcome than in the case of fuel consumption which I spoke about at the beginning of this article. Hence, apart from the information on XXX Mbps supported by a router, it is important to specify, among other things, whether the data is unidirectional or bidirectional (whether XXX Mbps are supported in only one direction or both), since this clearly has a 100 percent impact on the published value.
Another important factor is the packet size used in the test to obtain the XXX Mbps. This is because a packet’s switching load is independent of its size, or to put it another way, the power of a device is determined by the number of Packets per Second (PPS) that it is capable of processing. Thus, a test with 100 byte packets will give one result, while the same test with 1500 byte packets, will produce a figure that is 15 times higher.
Finally, another important circumstance is the configuration loaded in the router, which can also have an effect that is just as important as the others.
In order to avoid these problems, a test pattern under given conditions has been standardized, defined in RFC2544 and RFC6815. In an ideal world, manufacturers would be able to use these standards and compare the published data directly without any uncertainty. A slight downside to these tests is that they don’t provide a single result, but rather a set of results obtained from a set of conditions. But that’s another story for another day.
Energy efficiency: powerful, high-performance routers
The performance of the Teldat routers is usually far superior to similarly-priced competitors’ routers. Sometimes, four or five times more powerful.
Furthermore, we try to be as objective as possible in providing performance data, always indicating bidirectional information (the data indicated on each side simultaneously), using IMIX packet size (statistical average of the Internet traffic) and a configuration of average complexity (ACLs + QoS), i.e. under conditions similar to the real-world so that there are no surprises as in the case of gasoline consumption…
Many of you will probably have heard of a new film that is currently being shown now called “The eye of the storm”, which relates the story of a small town hit by enormous storms one after another including tornadoes and hurricanes. For those of us that may think that there´s a mistake in the post, yes; this is still about technology. But seeing the film the other day, I noticed some facts that somehow reminded me of the routing business we are in.
The film has nothing new to offer. Especially for those of us who may have watched a similar one called Twister in the 80s (and still remember the flying cow!). The interesting thing is that I watched the film in experience mode. This means the theater had set up huge fans and water sprinklers that were coordinated with the different scenes. Thus, when the hurricane hit the people on the screen, the system turned on the fans and a strong wind with tiny water drops would hit your face and body – practically all through the film. So, by the end, and since the film is all about hurricane scenes, when lights turn on you are chilled and wet. I cannot think who thought this would be a good idea! Let´s see:
First of all it doesn´t help a bit to get into the film. You keep wondering when the fans are going to turn on, the strength of the air, and other things that have nothing to do with the story. And by the end you only want to run off to get a towel and a warm drink. Secondly, I am sure that the theater made a great investment in a system that the customers might not like, or is not a real improvement in the experience of just watching the film. And the third point, it´s more expensive to go and see. So many customers would just prefer to save their money.
And here is where this links with the Routing Business (yes, I mentioned this was about Technology). To begin with, we all know that Network Technology right now is exactly in the very eye of the storm. NFV, SND, Security, Mobility needs and such are expected to bring important changes in the way that service providers consider the current network business. But apart from the obvious word games, let´s see why I saw similarities between a vendor manufacturer, the film and the theater experience:
- Efficiency: The necessities of customers when it comes to network equipment are well known. However, many vendors pack their equipment with lots of features that, a) the clients do not need and b) end up draining resources thus lowering the performance of their routers in key features that the customers pay for. In the same way as the film, where the story starts to lose all interest due to the endless storms.
- Investment: When a vendor designs a product roadmap, the return of investment is one of the key factors. So, they invest in features that suit the needs of the majority of their customers or in special features that are demanded from a niche market or special customers. Contrariwise, the investment is useless. Throughout the film, I kept thinking. “Apart from a hurricane film, what is all this investment in this infrastructure valid for?” Because it cannot possibly be reused for any other films (or only for a very small number of them).
- Price: Is the customer ready to pay extra for what you are offering? We live in a world where budgets are tighter each year. And customers try to save as much money as possible in things that are not really necessary. So is it reasonable to charge extra (and risk rising above the market price) for features that the customer may not need, want or even appreciate?
As you can appreciate, I didn´t find the film very interesting (with or without fans), but I reached the conclusion that it makes sense to avoid some extraordinary, even appealing and marketable features, that only raise the cost and do not help to more effectively solve the customer requirements (in this case, the obvious need was watching a good film).
This is what we have in mind in Teldat when we design our routers. How to solve the customer needs as efficiently as possible, at a lower cost. Consequently the first thing we do is to find out what these needs are and stick to them, without adding a lot of features and functionalities that we charge our customers for, but do not necessarily add a significant value. For us in Teldat, this is what competitiveness is all about.
Or, is there? Had you ever thought about it? Is it important? Maybe not, but I bet you that a vast majority of us have at least lived a moment in which we have strongly wished the alphabetical list by which we were being called was in a different order. Or that our surname began with a different letter, which is more or less the same.
As in this example, there are a lot of things in our everyday life which we do for unknown reasons, or even worse for reasons which might not be the most adequate. In the first case, it is clear that humans are routine animals which tend to standardize a behaviour, with which they feel comfortable, and then they stick to it. After all, this seems to be the most efficient model and due to our lack of time and multiple occupations, it might make sense (or at least, we convince ourselves that it does).
The second case is more complicated, because sometimes thinking outside the box, or defending a different position, requires even extra effort, time and sometimes personal engagement. Thus, sometimes we forget the reasons behind the true objective in favor of others, equally valid but with less impact in what we should be achieving.
This happens every day and to every one of us. Why we all keep checking emails at off-hours, when nothing (besides spam) is expected? Because it is our normal routine behaviour. Even though we have a strong commitment to “this time we definitely get in shape”, why do we remain sitting on our sofas instead of rushing to the Gym? Because we are able to find millions of “valid” reasons that prevent us from reaching our objective in the best ever possible way. Instead, we would rather end in a more comfortable and less effortless position.
The consequences of making thoughtless decisions in ICT environments
These, are examples taken from our real life, and have no greater impact on other people or organizations other than ourselves. But the real problem comes when we take the same behaviour model to our professional life. Here, and specially in the ICT area, which is the platform upon which company processes are built, every decision has a direct impact on people’s performance, on organization effectiveness and on the business bottom line.
Honestly, think for a minute: How many ICT purchase projects are influenced by some behaviours that might lead to a second-best solution for our project? Of course, time and resources are a big issue here, so sometimes we (all) tend to go for the most recognized manufacturers, or to the sales guy which is constantly pressing to get a deal, or to the solution that makes us safer (because that is what everybody does and so, I will not be blamed if it fails), or simply to the one that we are most comfortable with.
Maybe in this way we are losing opportunities to change, to innovate, to improve and to find solutions that better solve the organizations. There are lots of not-so-big companies with excellent technology and superb customer support that due to their size and flexibility can provide specific solutions that address the explicit needs of different sectors. In most cases general purpose vendors with a one-size-fits-all business model, can´t afford to deliver too small functional details and so, the organization ends up lacking a solution that saves them worries, time and money, with the due impact on the business bottom line.
Specific solutions adjusted to specific routing needs
Of course all this effort, is not for free. This requires tests, time, dedication, and also assuming a bit of risk. But if it works, the results are excellent and a huge value is delivered to the companies. We know every step of it because we have seen it happen in almost every customer that we have around the world. From the disbelief, to the skepticism, to the surprise, to the utmost loyalty for years.
So we know how to help any organization to eventually get the (really) best solutions for their routing needs.
Coming back to our alphabet title. Has somebody figured out how to avoid the problem of those whose surname began with letter A B or C, always being the first in the line. The solution was so simple, as to draw out which would be the first letter to begin with. This proves that it is possible, and easier than one might think to change the established order. We have been doing it for a long time, and we can help you decide if for your routing needs, maybe T would be the first to consider, rather than A. Or B. Or, as usually happens, C.